Laona M. Kitchen Foundation: Board Members

Board Members

Board Members
Gary D. Kitchen, President

Gary is the Founder and President of the Laona M. Kitchen Foundation.

He is a graduate of the University of Louisville. Upon graduation, he served in the U.S. Navy. After leaving the service he worked in management for Kroger and has worked in all aspects of the grocery industry in Atlanta until retirement in 2013. 

He founded the Laona M. Kitchen Foundation to honor his mother, Laona, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Gary, along with his family, were her caregivers while she lived in his home. Eventually, she had to be moved into an assisted living facility. Having seen first hand how the disease ravaged his mother, Gary wanted to raise money for Alzheimer’s. Due to his love of golf and desire to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association, with Jennifer Ferguson's, Executive Director of Laona's assisted living facility (Arbor Terrace of West Cobb) and Casey Smith's of Wiser Wealth Management help, he started a golf tournament. The annual golf tournament raised over $17,000 in four years for the Alzheimer's Association. In late 2011, after the death of his mother, he decided that he could do more. A decision was made, along with his family and friends, to form the Foundation to assist families affected by Alzheimer’s/Dementia. Since then, the Foundation has continued to hold an annual golf tournament and added an annual casino night event to continue raising funds for the Foundation.


Board Members

Jennifer Ferguson

Jennifer provides input to the Foundation on the care demands of a person living with Alzheimer's.  She shares her network of resources to help families who are affected byAlzheimer's and dementia.

Jennifer is Executive Director of Arbor Terrace at West Cobb, the facility that cared for Laona in the latter stages of Alzheimers. She was instrumental in educating Gary and his family on understanding the progression and impact of the disease.


Board MembersAlex Salabarria, CEO, Oaks Senior Living, LLC

Alex provides insight into the services and care that can be found in assisted living communities dedicated to the care of persons with Alzheimer's and dementia.  The Salabarria family has developed and currently manages assisted living and memory care communities in Georgia.

Alex Salabarria was born in Miami, Florida in 1967. The Salabarria family immigrated from Cuba when the Fidel Castro revolution toppled the Baptista regime. The youngest of three siblings, Alex resided for most of his childhood in Ocala, Florida. He attended the University of Florida and graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Hospitality Management.  

In 1996, Alex moved to the Atlanta area to work with his father, Nelson Sr., to achieve his dream of developing and managing an Assisted Living Community for the elderly. In 1998 their dream became reality when they opened their first community - The Oaks of Woodstock - in Woodstock, Georgia.  Currently the family is building their fifth facility in Georgia.


Board Members

Casey T. Smith, CEO, Wiser Wealth Management, Inc.

Casey serves as financial advisor for the Laona M. Kitchen Foundation.

Casey Smith is President of Wiser Wealth Management, a Marietta, Georgia, based fee-only fiduciary wealth management firm offering asset management, tax preparation, estate planning and financial planning services.  Wiser’s unique investing techniques has earned Casey speaking engagements around the world.

Casey, a graduate of Berry College, sits on the Board of the Planned Giving Council of Berry College, The Berry College Campbell School of Business Executive Advisory Committee, the Berry Student Run Enterprises Advisory Board and the Berry College Board of Visitors. Casey serves as the Chairman of the Berry Investment Group Advisory Board. Casey is a member of the Marietta Business Association and serves on the board of Hughes Polymer Additives, Inc, and Laney Holdings, Inc.

In addition to running his firm, Casey is a captain for Express Jet Airlines, a Delta Connection Carrier for Delta and United airlines.


Board Members

Jona Payne

Jona started in the senior industry in 2008 working in hospice. She learned first hand about being an advocate with her own family, helping assist care for her grandparents. She experienced the hard decisions of keeping them at home with a caregiver, home care, moving them to assisted living, separating them due to the Alzheimer's diagnosis, to long term skilled nursing and finally with hospice. With 9+ years in the senior industry, management experience in Memory Care, Independent Living, Assisted Living and Personal Care Homes. She has personally visited over 700 communities in Georgia alone as well as communities in 5 other states. Dementia trainer, speaker, the Membership Director on the board of ASCNN, senior living advisor and family advocate. She has helped thousands of families. She understands the process forward and backward. Her hunger to help serve families radiates when you speak to her. Jona can truly sympathize with families she helps daily, as she wishes someone had been there for her.